Different, Not Less: Pushing the Limits Through Learning the Life Experiences of Youth with Disabilities
Have you ever thought about how we all have different abilities?
Some people run very fast, some sing well, and some have cool ideas for changing the world. However, when we talk about people with disabilities, sometimes we forget that they are not different from people without disabilities. We may not be aware of their abilities, as we may never understand identities that are different from those we are familiar with.
In this blog, we will discuss the lifestyle of young people with disabilities and the obstacles they face through a youth dialogue with people with disabilities and other identity groups, in order to understand problems and solutions to help them receive the equality they deserve.
Disability is a major issue affecting many people worldwide, especially Thai youth. Disability is not necessarily a physical disability, mental disability is also considered a disability. According to the 2017 Disability Survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics, there were approximately 140,000 children with disabilities. Most of them come from low-income families, with over 38% of people not in the education system, 27% lack of access to health promotion services, and 4% of people unable to access medical services during illness. Nearly half are not registered with the government and do not receive monthly disability living allowances.
Thai people with disabilities face challenges that may have a significant impact on accessing resources and opportunities. These challenges are particularly severe in societies where physical performance is highly valued and the needs of people with disabilities are often overlooked.
One of the challenges faced by people with disabilities in Thailand is discrimination and social stigma. Despite efforts to increase awareness and understanding of disability, many people with disabilities also face social and economic biases and discrimination, which may lead to difficulties in receiving education, employment, and healthcare, including a lack of government and civil society representation.
Challenges in Accessing Education and Training Opportunities
Ja (figure name), a mobility-impaired person in the group, shared her high school experience. When she was in high school, she attended a school without an elevator, making the travel to study in each lesson very difficult and tiring. Many schools and universities do not have spaces for students with disabilities, this may limit their ability to access basic education. This can lead to limited employment opportunities and diminished earning potential. This could have a profound impact on the quality of life of people with disabilities. In addition, people with disabilities in Thailand face challenges in accessing healthcare services. Many medical facilities are not equipped to provide the necessary accommodations for people with disabilities, this may limit their ability to access treatment and care and lead to worse health and lower quality of life.
In addition, young people with disabilities in Thailand face challenges due to the lack of technology and equipment. Many young people with disabilities need technology and equipment to help them with their daily lives, such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, and communication devices. “Chak” (figure name), one of the blind people in the conversation, said that these devices can be expensive and difficult to access, especially for rural residents or low-income families. Their income is not enough to buy these things. This will limit their ability to access education, employment, and other opportunities greatly.
The challenge of preventing people with disabilities from participating in social activities
Another challenge faced by young people with disabilities in Thailand is the lack of public transportation. Although there are newly invented applications to help alleviate the difficulties of using public transportation such as Viabus, most public transportation systems in Thailand are still not designed for people with disabilities, which may limit their ability to travel and receive education, independent Employment, and medical services. This may lead to people with disabilities having to rely on family members or caregivers for transportation, further limiting their independence and social opportunities. Many participants shared similar experiences where their family members did not encourage traveling alone because they were concerned about safety.
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In terms of hobbies and recreational activities, since young people with disabilities may still face challenges in accessing information and communication technology, this may limit their ability to access information and resources, as well as participation in online learning and socializing. Many websites and digital platforms are not designed for people with disabilities, increasing more limitations of access to these technologies. “Jin”(figure name), a blind person, told us about how she also wants to do online shopping like a person without disabilities. However, it is nearly impossible, because most applications or online shopping websites do not design or provide screen-reader programs for visually impaired people. Even though it seems like a minor problem, this creates social divisions, a lack of opportunities, and what a human being deserves.
Challenges in accessing legal services and information
Finally, what we have learned from youth with disabilities in this dialogue is that they have faced difficulties in obtaining legal services and information. Many of them are not aware of their rights and their legal protection, which may make it difficult for them to obtain legal services and maintain their rights. In addition, many organizations that support people with disabilities are located in urban areas, which may make it difficult for low-income and rural disabled youth to obtain these services. To face the difficulty of these challenges, relevant governments and civil society must work together to promote the rights and inclusiveness of people with disabilities, this might involve amending laws and policies to ensure a more inclusive environment and protect them from discrimination. This includes raising awareness and promoting understanding of a more accepting society for people with disabilities.
The voices of people with disabilities and their stories allow us to better understand their daily life, dreams, and needs. Their needs are not different from people without disabilities, they hope to have a good quality of life and an atmosphere that allows them to achieve their wishes and dreams. The existing services and benefits may meet the needs of a large population. However, if we understand the specific circumstances of people with disabilities, we can design services that are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.